More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 23.26%
Average: 16.28%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 25 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Stylist, The by Peter Sobczynski

Hidden Man by Jay Seaver

Writer's Odyssey, A by Jay Seaver

Endgame (2021) by Jay Seaver

Tom and Jerry by Peter Sobczynski

Stylist, The by Rob Gonsalves

Rumble Fish by Jack Sommersby

Saint Maud by Rob Gonsalves

One Night in Miami... by Rob Gonsalves

Wanting Mare, The by Rob Gonsalves

subscribe to this feed

Infernal Affairs
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Brian McKay

"Like a classic Hong Kong action movie - only without any of the action"
3 stars

This cult hit out of China has almost all of the staples of a classic Hong Kong action film. It's a morass of familiar plot elements and cops and robbers cliches that even a modest fan of the genre has seen plenty of times before. It's well-acted and competently directed, with some interesting characters and a number of plot twists. It also has fewer shots fired in anger than fingers on my right hand - and without any action scenes to move the pace along, it all starts to feel dreadfully familiar and terribly slow at getting to the point.

The story begins a decade prior, as a mob enforcer named Lau (Andy Lau) is chosen by his boss to infiltrate the police academy. Their goal is to have him rise through the department, becoming a long-term mole who can tip them off whenever a police investigation is getting too close to their business activities.

Soon after Lau enters the Academy, he witnesses the dishonorable discharge of Chan (Tony Leung), who is expelled from the academy under dubious circumstances, despite being a model police cadet. What Lau and his bosses don't know, however, is that Chan is actually working under deep cover to inflitrate the mob in much the same way.

Over a decade later, Lau is now a mid-rank police detective who is on his way up, while Chan has been doing dirty deeds for the mob and secretly visiting attractive police therapist Li Sum Yee (Kelly Chen) to deal with the stress. He stifles both his growing attraction to Li, and his growing resentment of the department for leaving him under for so long without relief.

Meanwhile, Lau's life seems almost perfect, with his career on the rise as he moves into a new apartment with his novelist girlfriend. Perfect, except for the fact that it could all unravel at any moment if his cover gets blown, and he finds himself closely re-examining where his loyalties truly lay.

So okay, the plot feels a little familiar, especially if you've ever seen John Woo's HARD-BOILED. But INFERNAL AFFAIRS is a fairly well-written piece with two solid leads whose characters are readily sympathetic. There's a few clever twists and some competent directing, but the film just never quite finds a pulse. It tries to elevate itself above the HK action genre by choosing not to indulge in any action or excessive violence, save for a few isolated seconds of gunfire. The only problem is, the rest of the film may be good, but it's neither original or clever enough to really stick out from the crowd. And when you keep getting what looks like a buildup to a shootout every fifteen minutes, only to cut away to another scene . . . well, it does tend to give one a case of the action sequence blue-balls.

The other problem is that, with the exception of a police captain and mob boss who trade amusing verbal potshots, most of the supporting characters are either poorly-developed or poorly acted, or both. The female characters in INFERNAL AFFAIRS especially get the short shrift. Lau's ditzy novelist girlfriend is vapid and annoying, and doesn't convince me for a moment that she would be capable of writing anything more than her phone number on a napkin. Li is far more interesting and likable, but her character, or the chemistry she shares with Chang, never go anywhere. And most disappointing of all, a chance encounter between Chang and an ex girlfriend (who now has a young daughter), which could have become the film's most intriguing and dramatic subplot, becomes merely an afterthought by the closing credits. And why there's a sexy girl in a blue dress holding a gun on the DVD box remains a mystery, since I don't remember her ever actually appearing in the movie anywhere. Oh wait - Girls in sexy dresses holding guns on video box covers help move product. Mystery solved.

Far too light on action to be very exciting, and far too generic and familiar to be genuinely intriguing, INFERNAL AFFAIRS is a watchable but ultimately forgettable affair. That didn't stop it from spawning two sequels, though.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 01/17/05 16:07:28
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Boston Fantastic Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Boston Fantastic Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 New York Asian Film Festival For more in the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/05/11 Josie Cotton is a goddess A tense thriller. A little confusing at times, but well worth figuring out 5 stars
6/27/10 Ken More cleverly crafted then the sloppy American remake. More intruging characters too. 5 stars
1/09/10 Ben C Great movie - tight thriller 5 stars
10/04/09 Stuart Vastly Superior to the likes of the Departed. 5 stars
3/04/09 Ryu Far more realistic than the American remake. Gets the job done better. 5 stars
8/24/08 David This is the movie the Departed wished it could had been. 5 stars
3/13/08 ako Best Movie By Dream Team, Great. 5 stars
6/14/07 HT The original deals more with the psychological aspects, which provides more dept 5 stars
5/14/07 fools♫gold About as overrated as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." 4 stars
4/30/07 Bob A great film. The Departed doesn't even compare. 5 stars
3/25/07 Charles Tatum This has all the makings of a Martin Scorsese film! 4 stars
2/14/07 Jim This movie is way better than that dreadful American remake 5 stars
12/05/06 Joel What the hell is "The Departed"? This is the one and only! 5 stars
11/19/06 WH THIS MOVIE IS GODLIKE~! =D 5 stars
11/02/06 Andy Loved this one more than "Departed." 5 stars
10/16/06 Logan The brilliant and stylish original never disappoints. 5 stars
10/03/06 Terry blows away the "The Departed" anyday. Original forever! 5 stars
11/26/05 CONSTANTINE AWESOME, ONE OF THE BEST THRILLERS I'VE SEEN IN A WHILE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
8/15/05 Kelly Chen I have never seen such a great film! 5 stars
5/24/05 susee not great story but damn stylish 5 stars
5/18/05 K. Sear Enjoyable but not brilliant. 4 stars
1/17/05 Roy Smith Again Not quite unique but still well done. 4 stars
11/09/04 Alaric L Great story, great acting & great editing makes this a Great Movie!!! 5 stars
10/24/04 MG Lau and Leung at their best!!! 5 stars
9/26/04 KD Has really tense moments, but second half is a letdown 3 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  24-Sep-2004 (R)
  DVD: 07-Dec-2004



Directed by
  Andrew Lau
  Alan Mak

Written by
  Alan Mak
  Felix Chong

  Tony Leung
  Andy Lau
  Anthony Wong
  Eric Tsang
  Chapman To
  La Ka Tung

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast